AUDIOBOOKS: Romance, revenge, culinary delights and travels abroad

This week, romance, revenge, culinary delights and travels abroad are at the core of our audiobooks.

This week, romance, revenge, culinary delights and travels abroad are at the core of our audiobooks.

Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase
Louise Walters; read by Anna Bentinck and Karen Cass
Penguin Audio; eight CDs; 10 hours; $40/, $28

In alternating chapters, listeners meet 34-year-old Roberta and her 110-year-old grandmother, Dorothea, whose secret is at the heart of this audiobook. Though the mystery is easily deciphered, the story engages as it travels between World War II and present-day England. Both Bentinck as the older woman and Cass as her granddaughter enhance the story by evoking longing, loneliness and dry humor as we learn of Dorothea’s unhappy marriage and her romance with a Polish pilot. The dual narration is seamless and very smartly done. Cass sounds younger and peppier, while Bentinck is more world-weary. She also manages convincing male voices and a Polish accent. Grade: A-minus

The Other Daughter
Lauren Willig; read by Nicola Barber
Macmillan Audio; 8 CDs; 10 hours; $44.99/, $27.99

This tale of revenge and romance is a lovely and light period piece set in England during the Roaring Twenties. Rachel Woodley is working as a governess in France when her mother dies, and she suddenly discovers that her father is not dead but alive and of the nobility. Disguising herself and mincing about with the Bright Young Things of her generation, Rachel learns a few hard truths about life, love and honor. None of this runs very deep, however, and is therefore not terribly memorable. More remarkable is narrator Barber whose performance is rich in emotion, matched only by a pleasing, lyrical voice. Grade: B-plus

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
J. Ryan Stradal; read by Amy Ryan and Michael Stuhlbarg
Penguin Audio; 8 CDs; 10 hours; $40/, $28

Loosely connected stories comprise this novel, though each one is satisfyingly self-contained. From cheating wives to Lutheran church bake-offs, author Stradal covers it all, but his best creation is Chef Eva Thorvald, the thread binding these tales together. She evolves from a newly orphaned infant to a Scandinavian goddess with chipped fingernail polish, an exquisite palate and flair for creative cooking. Much is left out, however, as Stradal hurries from story to story, leaving us wondering about characters that are simply left behind. Ryan and Stuhlbarg bring energy and personality to their narrations, employing subtle Midwestern accents and adjusting their tone and timing to create unique vocal personas. Grade: B-plus 

The House of Hawthorne
Erika Robuck; read by Mary Robinette Kowal
Brilliance Audio; nine CDs; 11 and 18 minutes hours, $29.99/, $29.99

Spanning the 1830s to the Civil War and traveling from Massachusetts to several European countries, this story explores the tension within the famous marriage of a strong-willed, artistic couple devoted to each other but also to their art. Emerson, Thoreau, Franklin Pierce and Margaret Fuller make appearances in the lives of Sophia Peabody and her writer husband, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Occasionally the writing is rather tortured and protagonist Sophia tends to belabor the problems in her life until tediousness sets in. Kowal delivers a pleasant patter, but her foreign accents and various voices are not always successful. Grade: B-minus